Carefully Crafted on March 16

HOW TO Define Target Audiences & Write Key Messages (Part 2 of 3-Part Plan-Writing Series)

Yesterday, we laid the foundation for how to write a PR plan, discussing situation analysis and research. Today, we’re going to discuss how to identify who we’re trying to reach and what messages will resonate with them.

Identifying Target Audiences

First up, target audiences. Each company has a different set of audiences. Start by taking a very traditional view of target audiences. For example, If work for a B2B company specializing in products for electricians, you wouldn’t send direct mail to fashion designers. That same concept applies to PR and social media. Being targeted with your PR outreach will help you deliver more bang for the buck and show stronger bottom-line results. When trying to figure out who to target, start by asking yourself these questions:

  • Who is the ideal client? What’s their profile? (The more detailed you can get, the better. Think about demographics, values, characteristics, activities they enjoy, causes they might support, etc.)
  • Who is the decision-maker that will decide whether to hire you or a competitor? What motivates their purchasing decisions?
  • Who can refer business/sales your way? Who can help you connect with buyers/customers/clients?
  • What commonalities exist among your current customer base?
  • What type of customer does your competition attract? What can you learn from their successes?

If you’re a consumer product, sometimes there’s a tendency to believe “everyone” would be interested in your product. That’s just not true. And, if you think you’re trying to reach everyone, you’re going to miss the mark. Instead, be realistic about who the likely buyer is. Then, build a plan to connect with those audiences.

Creating a Brand Vocabulary

Once you determine who you’re trying to reach, then you have to figure out how to talk to them. When developing messages, remember that repetition is key. So, whether you’re creating content for a bylined article in a magazine, or drafting blog posts or online status updates, keep your brand vocabulary and key messages in mind. That doesn’t mean Twitter updates should be full of corporate-sounding messages. Instead, think about how your online conversations can underscore the messages your organization is trying to convey.

When developing messaging, don’t do it in a vacuum. I suggest clients create a chart to analyze the competition’s vocabulary. As you create your company’s messaging, make sure you differentiate yourself from the competition. Because we live in a search-engine world, analyze SEO’s role in this process. What words and phrases do you want to rank for? How should that impact your messaging strategy? Messages can’t be  pulled out of thin air. How do people currently describe your product/service? What adjectives do customer use to communicate their experience with your company?  Don’t reinvent the wheel. Just formalize and polish up what’s already floating around.

Key Messages

Key messages include a handful of overarching points that you want to convey. When I write plans, this is often in bulleted format, with each message being a sentence or two. If your product or service is technical, consider creating a series of supporting messages to drive home each main point. Key messages should be easy for employees to recall and repeat during conversation with current or prospective clients, so avoid industry jargon and run-on sentences. If key messages are hard to remember, what do you think the odds are that the messages will actually be conveyed?

Brand Vocabulary and Phrases

What words and phrases do you want associated with your brand? These words and phrases should align with your key messages, but should also include adjectives and action phrases that can be worked into PR and social media activities, customer service interactions, sales pitches, collateral, speaking engagements and other interactions. Again, don’t create such a comprehensive list that it overwhelms people. Come up with a dozen or so suggestions.

And, there you have it: Some guidelines for identifying who you want to reach and how to develop effective key messages. Later this week, we’ll get to the fun stuff — the tactics. Click here to subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss the final installment of the how-to-write-a-plan series.


  1. […] prTini, one of my favorite PR-related blogs, Heather Whaling wrote a post about identifying target audiences and writing key messages. To create verbal identity, she […]

  2. […] Identify your audience: Are you writing for twenty-something travelers or a group of middle-aged business men? Make your […]

  3. […] i.e Keyword, Personalities, Lifestyle, Attributes etc. Write everything down you associate with the target audience you have chosen. You can now understand how to target them better by doing […]

  4. […] For assistance in establishing target audiences, check out the possibilities at […]

  5. […] HOW TO Define Target Audiences & Write Key Messages (Part 2 of 3-Part Plan-Writing Series) […]

  6. […] Heather Whaling, founder of Geben Communication, provides some useful insight: […]

  7. […] are some basic questions to start with when nailing down your ideal […]

Empowered by:
Empowered by Geben Communication